Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:
Nov. 25, 2017
Ketchikan Daily News: Pre-empt
Alaska’s economy is based on natural resource development, whether it’s oil, natural gas, fishing, mining or timber.
Even tourism is largely dependent on wise management of natural resources.
Like in nature, this requires a balanced approach. Neither one extreme nor the other will ever prevail forever. The views of present Alaskans are likely to differ — at least somewhat — with future thoughts on Tongass management.
That said, the future of natural resource development in the Tongass National Forest made headlines this week with Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s effort to exempt the forest from the “Roadless Rule” and pre-empt the 2016 Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan Amendment.
Murkowski has proposed to Congress that legislative adjustments be made to secure a viable timber industry in Southeast Alaska. Since the closure of two large pulp mills and smaller sawmills over the past couple of decades, the timber industry has struggled to stay alive.
Murkowski proposes a 360,000-acre inventory of young-growth timber in the Tongass. This inventory is viewed as necessary by the industry if there is to be a successful transition to young-growth-based harvests.
If Congress should adopt Murkowski’s proposed adjustments, the U.S. Forest Service would manage the 17-million-acre Tongass under the 2008 Tongass Land and Resource Management Plan.
The proposal is included in the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for fiscal 2018.
Murkowski is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Murkowski’s proposal is in response to the industry’s plea. It has witnessed the amount of Tongass timber under contract for harvest by the Forest Service decline in the past 20 years from 498 million board feet to 78 mbf. Young growth doesn’t begin to fill the gap.
It’s also mostly an export product at present. Murkowski’s efforts may lead to developments within the industry to allow for regional manufacturing, which would provide jobs and enhance the economy.
Meanwhile, exempting Alaska’s national forests from the Roadless Rule would loosen restraints on other types of development in the Tongass, as well.
Tongass management is a decades-old topic with significant time, work, money and planning invested. It’s also been confronted with much uncertainty for the industry. Most of that might have been unnecessary if Murkowski’s plan had been adopted previously.
As it is, Murkowski has a Congress and a president expected to be open to her proposal.
And ultimately Alaska depends on development of natural resources, as witnessed by their rise and fall through the years. The economy thrives when they are developed; not so much when they aren’t.
That will be the way of the land absent new ventures coming here.
Nov. 29, 2017
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Want better air? Follow the rules
Winter in Fairbanks is deceptively pristine in its winter white blanket of snow. With the hard winter comes increased fuel consumption and occasional inversions that prevent pollution from dispersing into the atmosphere. The combination often leads to poor air quality and poses a risk to the public’s health.
On Tuesday, the Fairbanks North Star Borough issued burn bans under new tougher rules in North Pole and Fairbanks highlighting the prevalence of PM 2.5, or fine particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or smaller, in the atmosphere.
Now it’s time for borough residents to prove they really want the clean air they’ve been talking about for so long.
The borough has been designated a “serious” nonattainment area by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. PM 2.5 can accumulate in the lungs or enter the bloodstream. In the short term, exposure to PM 2.5 can decrease lung function, irritate the airways, and cause coughing, difficulty breathing, and an irregular heartbeat. Long-term affects of PM 2.5 exposure can lead to chronic diseases like pneumonia or emphysema, infant mortality, developmental disabilities, and lung cancer deaths. Children and seniors are particularly susceptible to the effects of PM 2.5.
For many residents, burning wood in a woodstove is the cheapest way to warm their homes. Unfortunately, woodsmoke contributes up to 75 percent of the PM 2.5 in the borough, according to a borough study completed in 2013. Wet wood with a moisture content above 20 percent exacerbates the problem.
For more than a decade the borough has worked with state and EPA officials to meet standards for clean air. And earlier this year the Borough Assembly adopted more robust regulations in an effort to reduce PM 2.5. Last winter, wood burners could ignore a Stage 1 alert if they chose. But now during a Stage 1 alert, only people with a No Other Adequate Heat Source (NOASH) waiver or approved Stage 1 waiver can burn wood or coal. During a Stage 2 alert, only residents with a NOASH can use their woodstoves. Scofflaws will be subject to a notice and subsequent fines. There are more requirements to obtain a NOASH permit as well.
Of course, the easiest way to prevent burn bans is to burn dry wood, which can be accomplished by doing the following:
— Splitting wood in half at least once
— Stacking wood in piles to allow airflow
— Storing wood for six months to two years in an area exposed to the sun
It’s been easy to ignore burn bans in the past, but now it’s time to see if the borough’s new regulations will change behavior and curtail air pollution in the Interior. Residents should follow these new regulations and give air quality a chance to improve. After all, compliance could be less expensive than paying fines.